On June 24, the President of the Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) stated before the House Education and Labor Committee that there is a need for the creation of an OSHA agency specifically dedicated to construction. The hearing was to decide if the Occupational Safety & Health Administration was adequately enforcing construction safety measures.
President Mark H. Ayers talked about the increasing amount of construction fatalities across the U.S. as evidence for his argument.
On average four American construction workers die on site every day and in the past 12 months a total of 17 Las Vegas, NV workers were killed on construction work sites. He also cited an increase in accidents involving construction cranes. The recent collapse of two tower cranes in New York City killed and injured construction workers, bystanders and even first responders.
According to Ayers, in 2006, 1,239 construction workers were killed on the job, or died as a result of their injuries. Construction workers make up only 8 percent of the U.S. workforce, but account for more than 22 percent of all work-related deaths. These deaths normally do not get front-page coverage and Ayer’s believes that construction workers are viewed as ‘disposable commodities’ which he finds absolutely outrageous.
Just a few weeks ago, over 6,000 construction workers walked off the Las Vegas City Center project after the sixth construction fatality. Workers were picketing a yelling that the worksite was unsafe. Union leaders stated that they would continue to picket until the general contractor, Perini Building Company agreed to their demands.
After negotiations, it was agreed that the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) would put in a system that would train all construction workers at the City Center and Cosmopolitan sites using the OSHA 10-hour training program. The BCTD estimates that around two-thirds of the workers on both sites have not received this training because until now the training program was voluntary and contractors did not require it on these sites.
Ayer’s believes that to fix the problem of construction fatalities and improve safety on construction sites there needs to be four things in addition to the construction department of OSHA.
1. An OSHA temporary emergency standard requiring that all workers in the industry are trained and certified in accordance with the basic 10-hour OSHA safety and health training program.
2. Immediate promulgation of an OSHA crane safety standard.
3. Stepped up OSHA jobsite enforcement activities.
4. Increased funding for construction safety and health research under NIOSH.
Construction has the third highest death rate by injury; beat out only by mining and agriculture. The leading causes of death for construction workers are falling from elevations, motor vehicle crashes, electrocution, machines, and being struck by falling objects. Construction is a high hazard occupation and workers deserve safe and healthy work environments.